From the Fox Noir series comes Shock (1946), a dark, entertaining little film featuring Vincent Price (The Fly, The Tingler, The Abominable Dr. Phibes) and Lynn Bari (Charlie Chan in City in Darkness, The Amazing Mr. X). Directed by Alfred L. Werker (He Walked by Night), the film also features Anabel Shaw (Home, Sweet Homicide, Gun Crazy), Frank Latimore (The Razor's Edge), Stephen Dunne (The Dark Past), and Charles Trowbridge (Valley of the Zombies).
As the film begins we see a woman named Janet Stewart (Shaw) checking into a San Franciscan hotel with the intent on meeting her husband Paul (Latimore), a lieutenant in the military who's been missing for the past couple years, only recently rescued from a POW camp, or something like that. Anyway, while anxiously awaiting the arrival of husband (two years is a long time to go without any action, and I should know), Janet witnesses a murder from her balcony as a man across the way bludgeons his wife to death during a heated argument. When Paul finally arrives, he finds his wife in a state of shock, unable to move or speak, presumably brought on by that which she witnessed earlier. The hotel doctor is called in, but seeing Janet's condition as something out of his league, he refers her to another hotel resident, a specialist in this sort of thing, named Dr. Richard Cross (Price), who also happens to be the same man Janet witnessed clubbing his now dead wife. Richard, quickly realizing the cause Janet's catatonic state, recommends she be taken to his private sanitarium for further `treatment'. Upon their arrival at the sanitarium we meet a nurse in attendance, one named Elaine Jordan (Bari), who happens to also be Richard's girlfriend (and the cause of the spat between Richard and his now dead wife). After getting Elaine up to speed on current events (she seems unusually cool about everything), she and Richard begin making plans to not only take care of the body of Richard's now deceased wife, but to also deal with the only witness to the crime who ain't saying much in her current state, but represents a real threat that when the shock wears off, she'll most likely spill the beans.
I enjoyed this film a lot, especially the performances by both Price and Bari, both of which represented the main strength of the feature, in my opinion. I've always been a fan of Vincent Price, particularly his ability to take on a role and make it seem believable. I found it very easy to buy off on the pretense of his being an eminent physician in the psychiatric field, one who specialized in disorders of the mind. I'm generally used to his more garish and over-the-top performances as in his later, straight up horror features, so it was interesting seeing him in an early, more restrained role, comparatively speaking (either way he's fun to watch). I thought Ms. Bari, who's displayed more prominently than Price on the DVD case artwork, also did a wonderful job, and I'm not just saying that because I'm partial to spicy brunettes. Her character was a subtly wicked piece of work, along with being extremely easy on the eyes, and it was easy to see how someone might go to such extremes in an effort to maintain a relationship with her (I don't know that I'd commit murder for her, but I might consider maiming someone for her affections). One really interesting element with the two characters was how Richard often felt the pangs of remorse or regret for his `un-Hippocratic' behavior, only to find a certain amount of appeasement from Elaine, who was driven by only one, encompassing desire, to be with Richard free and clear, no matter what had to be done to ensure the safety of the relationship (further cementing my belief that women are truly evil). As far as Shaw and Latimore's characters, they start off well enough, but their characters quickly fall into the realm of one dimensionality once the screenplay properly introduces Price's character. I thought there were some real opportunities to make them into more that what they were, but it wasn't to be especially given the film runs a mere 70 minutes and it seems more or less a showcase for Price. Sometimes I gripe about a film running too long, containing extraneous and unnecessary material, but in this case I think it was the opposite. There seemed a number of areas that could have been more developed (a couple of the characters, the disposition of Richard's wife's body, the subsequent police investigation, the horror of being stuck in a mental institution run by someone who knows you witnessed them murdering someone else, etc.). All in all the production values were decent enough, the direction capable, the key performances wonderful, but the screenplay seemed less than it could have been, resulting in a moderately solid film that could have been a whole lot more. Regardless, it's worth checking out, especially if you're a fan of Price.
The picture, presented in fullscreen (1.33:1), comes across very clean and clear, and the Dolby Digital audio, available in both English mono and stereo and Spanish mono, sounds wonderful. As far as special features there's an entertaining commentary track by film writer and historian John Stanley, liner notes, subtitles in both English and Spanish, and trailers for other features including Boomerang! (1947), Fourteen Hours (1951), House of Strangers (1949), I Wake Up Screaming (1941), Laura (1944), Vicki (1953), and Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950).